A Country Among Countries is a political thriller inside of a space opera that’s filled with intriguing characters up against tough obstacles. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did it change as you wrote?
There were two story elements that needed to be accomplished. The first was winding down the incidents at Ganymede, and the second was getting the majority of characters to Mars because of the approaching mid-series conclusion in the next book. It was tough for me, and don’t feel like I’ve told half the story that I wanted to tell in this particular novel. One major events in the story is the rejection of Mat’s ore at A40, thus leading to the decision to go to Mars.
The story is filled with intriguing characters. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Ludwick or Mat. Ludwick because he’s so easy to write, and Mat because of his personal values.
The science inserted in the fiction, I felt, was well balanced. How did you manage to keep it grounded while still providing the fantastic edge science fiction stories usually provide?
Well I did do my research with regards to propulsion, fuel, speed, orbit and gravity. I like novels with ‘real science’ in them, but because it’s fiction you can hedge a little bit. But it is a balance. I believe my audience is educated, and they’ll know when I push the tech too far out of bounds. I just tried to make it as realistic as possible without the benefit of an engineering PHD.
This is book three in your Harmony series. What can readers expect in book four?
Rashomon’s War will conclude this part of the series. The events surrounding Modi’s take over of Mars will likely be quick, and the majority of the story will be found in the resolutions for the characters, and most of those were determined by Book 2, Year of the Child. (psst. then we start again in a new timeline.)
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A Country Among Countries by R.L. Dean is a science fiction thriller with deep socio-political commentary. The lives of many characters are intertwined and move towards a satisfying climax. Tetsuya is concerned with ideas of justice and duties and carries the burden of his past mistakes as a cop. Misaki and Middleton are caught up in a complicated game of loyalty and trust where neither can give up their secrets without harming the other. Compton is a soldier struggling with the pressure of tough decisions that lay ahead of him. The UN is intending the economic ruin of Mars by creating a dependence on the businesses on Earth. All of them are connected through Ganymede, a planet where the assassination of Governor Jung had occurred.
There are interesting illustrations woven throughout by R.L. Dean that builds a delightful tension before the chapters. All the characters are given a rich inner life. All their motivations and behavior came from a natural place. I almost felt like I was part of their group, and that is definitely the biggest strength of this book. The characters are three-dimensional and feel alive that you can’t help but feel that this is happening somewhere in an alternate universe. The banter between Asha and her dad was endearing and adorable. There’s also a lot of diversity in the characters- even though some of their origins are not explicitly mentioned, a variety of cultures are portrayed in a realistic manner. In the science fiction that I have encountered, this is a pretty uncommon element, but greatly appreciated. On the flip side, there are hordes of characters present in this book. So it was a little hard keeping track of all of them, but I found that making a note of their names and the relations in a text file helped.
Of course, since it is a science fiction novel, there were some fantastic and fascinating gadgets and devices- like the air recycler systems and the “boxes of water” in hatch pads. I was intrigued by the descriptions of the different spaceships and the inter-space transportation. There are some parts of the story that felt like a commentary on the ongoing political situation in some countries. Especially when a character shares the same name as a leader of one of the most populous countries in the world. However, this didn’t bother me much as the fictional aspect is obviously kept at the forefront.
A Country Among Countries is a thrilling space adventure, with something in it for everyone, especially for people interested in examining the modern political world from a new perspective.
Pages: 265 | ASIN: B08PSBYZB2
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The Modronovich Incident starts with a missing ship and dives into a cover up 250 years in the making. How did you want to start this book that was different from your other works?
I felt that I had to open up with the mystery itself. We see the Modronovich fleeing from a pursuing ship: who are they, why are they chasing the Modronovich? My hope is that the reader will become interested enough to join the search.
I appreciated the balance between story telling and science fiction elements. How do you find the right balance of these things in your novels?
At its core all good sci-fi is a human story. As a reader, I want to experience the characters’ lives, I must in some way empathize with them, you do that through ‘story’. As an author, I pulled a fast one: I transposed a mystery to a space-opera. I could have as well wrote about a missing wagon in 18th Century America that was rumored to carry Humphry Davy’s first light bulb. If I didn’t dive into the lives of the characters it would have been a bland documentary in fiction format.
The mystery and backstory in this book were well developed and something I really enjoyed. What were some challenges you faced when creating the backstory?
The passage of time was the biggest challenge. I think it’s difficult for a modern audience to relate to things that happened ten years ago, let alone two-hundred fifty. This is no slight to them, but simply the reality of our progressive environments. There is always an upgrade … bigger, better, faster, etc. Yet, I needed a way to ‘shroud’ the incident in ambiguity, and time has a way of doing that. If you search the internet you can find three ways that the German Reformationist, Martin Luther, died. That’s what I needed for the Modronovich … but that just makes a dead end. So, enter longevity. Humans can now live about 160 years, this means that there is a relative, if tenuous, connection to the Modronovich. I used that connection to propel the story.
This is book one in your Thomas Spaulding Mystery series. What can readers expect in book two of the series?
Bea, aboard the Isaac Brin, chasing down the Sagan Artifact … whatever that may be.
The Modronovich, a cargo ship testing a prototype Newtonian drive, loses contact on its shakedown cruise. It was briefly seen, overdue and far off course, and then never heard from again.
Two-hundred and fifty years later, Penelope Middleton walks into Spaulding Recovery Services with a copy of a garbled transmission recorded by her grandfather, a communications technician serving aboard Capella Station during the Modronovich’s voyage. Haunted by childhood memories of him as a paranoid, broken man that spent the last century of his life in depression, and the enigmatic partial transmission, she hires Spaulding’s pilot and wreck diver, Beatrice, to unravel the mystery of the Modronovich and answer the questions surrounding her grandfather’s breakdown.
Chronicled in Bea’s diary it is the story of a cover-up decades in the making. What she finds leads to the disturbing details that caused two generations of PTSD and depression, the divorce of Penelope’s parents, and the truth about what happened to the ship and her crew.
Year of the Child is book two in your Harmony space opera series. What were some ideas you wanted to explore in this book that were different from book one?
The first was a detective. I was really moved by Hideo Yokoyama’s protagonist, Mikami, in his best-seller ‘Six-Four’. And in the current plot it made sense to provide a storyline from the point of view of law enforcement. At some point the piracy occurring in the story would need to be investigated, and I thought it would be a good idea to bring that investigation to the foreground, rather than simply telling it via newsfeeds.
The second were children. Given the story, what is the implication for them? What is their future going to be like? There are five children in the novel, all of them have an impact on the storyline, even if they are not in the forefront. In some cases those storylines will be dealt with in subsequent novels.
I enjoyed Ludwick Chaserman’s character. What was your process for bringing that character to life?
Ludwick was easier to create then you might imagine. I think of someone that had big dreams and no opportunities, or at least no knowledge of how to fulfill those dreams. In Ludwick’s case he wanted to be an advocate for human rights, but he started pursuing it far later than he should have in life. With no real contacts, no real knowledge, and no real help, he was zealous to do the right thing, but didn’t realize the might of the corporate giant that he was up against.
Ludwick writes himself.
What draws you to the science fiction genre and makes it ripe for you to write such a great space opera story in it?
It’s really about people, I just prefer the space opera genre. It shows us that human nature is the same no matter the setting.
Will there be a Harmony book three? If so, where will the story pickup?
Book 3, A Country Among Countries, will pickup around a month after the events in Year of the Child.
All cops know a mystery starts with a lie …
MISAKI— Two months have passed since the destruction of Harmony dome, and Misaki, guilt ridden over her desperate act of sabotage, returns to the place of healing that she knows best … the Sadie. Mat accepts a contract on the far flung moon of Ganymede, hoping that time and distance will heal him of the nightmares from his own wrong doing.
TETSUYA— Disreputable, former detective Tetsuya Takahashi is reassigned as the Lead Investigator for out-system piracy. Despite his reputation, his work is part of who he is. He knows all mysteries start with a lie, and his investigation begins to lead him closer to finding Misaki Iriyama … who reminds him of his lost daughter. His answers lie at Ganymede.
ALEXANDRIA— Her plan has succeeded. The destruction of Apex’s plant has caused a loop-hole in the restrictive UN law that once prohibited the selling of raw ore to the Martians. Then suddenly, word comes from the new mining base on Ganymede- something has been found in the ice, something puzzling and unnatural that has been buried since the time of David. More surprising is the fact that Alexandria seems to already know of its existence.
SHULTZ— With the construction of the new Apex plant on Deimos, and the end of the ore embargo, Mars is entering a ‘bubble economy’. Governor Shultz and Lt. Governor Jung finally feel like they are doing their jobs for the Martian people. But, using the Free Mars Now movement like a tool for their own agenda has made them powerful enemies. Even as Shultz and Jung ride the heady days of making Mars free of UN greed they know those days are numbered. Colonel Compton is slowly putting together the pieces of the puzzle that will link them to the terrorist attacks. They must plan for a future Mars knowing that their own demise is soon to come.
COMPTON— The failed attempt to ambush FMN terrorists at Cydonia Depot cost seven of his people their lives, and Compton is facing a possible court-martial. The families and friends of those that died alongside his soldiers do not believe their loved-ones were terrorists, and the news media has ahold of the story. But, the embattled Lieutenant Colonel knows his duty. With no leads in one hand, and a hanging mob in the other, he must somehow find the head of the Free Mars terrorists and cut it off.
The Rhine is an exciting space opera following a dramatic chain of events set off by the Free Mars Now movement. What served as sources of inspiration for you while writing this book?
The Harmony series is based off of a 15 year old TV script that I wrote about Martian independence, the novel form is its third incarnation. That script was inspired by the TV show Babylon 5. I wanted to explore Mars more thoroughly; what is the impetus for the movement for independence, who are the leaders, what is their endgame?
We follow three very well developed characters in this story where their actions intertwine. What were some driving ideals behind their characters?
Mat is the ‘everyman’ or ‘average guy’ that suddenly finds himself in circumstances beyond his control, and in this capacity he is simply ‘reacting’ to what is happening. This was a deliberate design of character. Every one of us can relate to being ‘tossed’ into something that we must deal with- circumstances not of our own choosing. This also works as a forge for our own character, who we really are will come out. I think of all character archetypes, this is my favorite.
While it may be said that the UN (in my story) is the catalyst- their oppression of Mars setting everything in motion- the character of Alexandria is the one that sets the story off. She is my ‘grey’ character; a family woman, yet ambitious. In her case I wanted to explore those traits, how to balance ‘work’ and family. She loves her family, and seeing a world in the grip of government powers that live for greed, she decides to do something about it.
As the Governor of Mars, Shultz is completely dedicated to his people, but as the story progresses we see he’s in over his head. We hear so much about bad politicians, I thought I would shift the paradigm and make a good one.
You’ve built an intricate world in this book, between Earth and Mars and the corporations. What was the funnest part about building this world?
For me it’s the visualization. In a previous review of the book it was stated that I ‘lavish on detail’, and the reason for that is that I just write what I see. If Shultz and Jung are in his office talking, I imagine the office’s sights and sounds and smells. The same holds true for the Sadie’s corridors and cabins, or Apex’s boardroom.
This is book one in the Harmony series. Where will book two pick up and when will it be available?
Harmony Book 2: ‘Year of the Child’ picks up two months after the events in ‘The Rhine’, opening with Misaki. I expect it to be available by November 2019.
The colony depends on Earth businesses for goods, but Earth is run by an imperialistic United Nations whose regulations and sanctions are overbearing.
Increasing tensions are only exacerbated by suspicious pirate attacks in the Belt. It is rumored the attacks are the work of the Free Mars Now grassroots movement or privateers paid by the Martian government in defiance of the UN. Recent victims of a pirate attack, Mat and his crew aboard the Sadie, discover evidence that could prove the rumors true.
With the UN squeezing the colony for every dime they can get, and Shultz looking to better the Martian situation, there are deals to be made. No one knows that better than Apex Mining’s CEO, Alexandria Reinhardt, whose Board of Directors has ordered her to sell their ore to the Martians despite a UN embargo. Her plans are more ambitious than simply ignoring government decrees, though.
Will the Free Mars Now movement find a way to release the colony from their 100-year lease to Earth? Can Shultz find a way to work with Earth companies without angering their government? Does Mat possess enough evidence to prove Mars’ disloyalty? And … in the past what happens when you push a distant colony too far?
The Martians have been ‘enslaved’ by earth for many years and they want their freedom back. It’s rumored that a movement has been formed to rebel against the UN. A movement thought to be behind the pirate attacks in the Belt including one on the Sadie. Matt and his crew may have found proof of this rebellion. The question remains though, is the evidence enough? Will it prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the rebellion is led by Martians? Can Governor Gerhard Schultz find a solution to the difficult situation? Can the governor find reprieve for Martians without going against the UN? How will Apex Mining CEO go about being forced to go against the government?
One of the most enjoyable things about this book is that it is quite relatable. While the real United Nations is (probably) not like the one in the book. One can still compare the colonialism in the book to the neocolonialism that is rampant now. One can find the similarity in Alexandria’s position with that which is faced by many people in her position. The Rhine is both interesting and entertaining while speaking to many modern issues.
R. L. Dean is impeccable and his skills at painting word pictures is on full display. He easily pulls you into his story, and before you know it your in the deep end of a thought provoking science fiction novel. This is a thrilling novel that kept me engrossed from the moment I met Matt to the very end. This science fiction story, although set in the future and in space, is still believable, which is something I always look for in my sci-fi stories.
Matt is a good leader that gets along with his crew but also remains firm and well respected. Alexandria, like any other child who takes over from their esteemed parent, is misunderstood and underestimated. She is admirable in the way she handles Edgar. R. L. Dean is able to balance the characters just enough to understand who they are while still keeping an air of mystery around them.
Everything from descriptions to dialogue are succinct and engrossing. Or it could be that the book was so immensely enjoyed that the discrepancies faded into the background. I loved experiencing the ride with Matt, Yuri and Haydon, and it was enlightening to be in the boardroom with Alexandria giving glimpses into her home life.
At the heart of it, this book is about freedom and how to achieve it. Would you like to achieve freedom through aggression or would you like to be more civil about it?
Pages: 273 | ASIN: B07LD2CQ11
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